I would rather take the beating

The other day Kyra and I were driving to the greenhouse talking about Dillon, high school and violence…

ME: One time, I went to a house party with my friends Randy and Paul. It was on our side of town. We were juniors. I think. Anyways, Randy and Paul get into a fight with a couple of kids from another high school, a private school called Elder. My friends getting into fights was not unusual. It was almost a Saturday night routine for us. They’d get into fights and I would break them up by throwing one of them over my shoulder and carrying him away. This time was different, though. The fight started outside while I was inside the house party. And, when I rushed out to break up the fight, it was dark. Too dark. I could not see. All I could see was one guy on the ground getting pummeled by another guy. Thinking that it was Randy or Paul in trouble I grabbed the guy doing the pummeling and threw him aside. The kid on the ground scrambled away. He was not Randy or Paul. They guy I threw was Paul. And, Paul was like “What the fuck Hump!” He was right. I should have known better. Neither of them would have been the one in trouble on the ground. Anyways, a few days later, one of my friends at Elder (Brian D.) called me up and said “Shawn, you better watch out. It’s rumored over here that you beat up a couple of Elder kids. Well, those kids have gone to two seniors to take you out.” Brian paused for a bit and then said “Shawn, don’t mess with these guys, they’re serious.”

KYRA: But you were stopping the fight…

ME: I know. But that’s not how it was told. What’s interesting about the whole thing with Paul is that Paul was once one of my middle-school bullies. Damn, he made my life miserable for three years.

KYRA: You became friends with him?

ME: I did. In high school, I out grew him and the rest of my bullies. And, well, he was friends with Randy. And, Randy was one of my best friends. So, Paul and I hung out. Not a lot. But I spent a few times hanging out at his trailer. Anyways, a week or two later, I was at another party with some friends. And, those two seniors from Elder that Brian D. warned me about showed up. They were massive. Huge. They strutted into the party. Sat down on the couch in the center of the room. Just the two of them. They stretched out their bodies. Threw their arms over the back of couch. Claimed the couch. Claimed the party. And, they asked for me.

KYRA: What did you do?

ME: Essentially, I bowed down to them. In front of everyone at the party. And, it was a party on our side of town. Our party. Not an Elder party. Randy and Paul were not there. I was there with some other friends. And, they were not fighters. Well, none of us were. Not like Randy and Paul. Like I said, I don’t remember the details. But damn if I don’t remember the shame. I still feel the shame. And, all I can think about is that if anything like that were to ever happen again, I’d rather take the beating than feel that feeling. This feeling. I still feel the feeling.

KYRA: But you didn’t want to fight.

ME: I know.

KYRA: And, if you would have fought, you would have contributed to the violence, added more violence to this world. That’s not what you want.

ME: I know. But part of me would rather take the beating.

As a man from a particular background and culture, I feel an intense shame in telling this story. It is a knifing sensation that is immediate and overpowering. Is it honor? Is it ego? I suppose it is both. Would I really rather take the beating? What would I want my son to do in this situation? I would want Dillon to have confidence in his physicality, know that he could handle himself. I would also want him to have the courage to walk away. I am not saying that I demonstrated courage in my walking away. I walked away because I was afraid. That’s hard to say. But I was never taught how to fight. The first and only time that I ever punched another human was in elementary school. Punching another human is not something that I do well. Growing up, whenever I found myself in physical altercations, I always wrestled the other person to the ground, pinned them and let them go once they gave up. And, when I dipped my toe briefly into mixed martial arts, my sparring partners had to encourage me to be more violent. Now, I can be violent. And, there is violence in me. I was violent on the football field. But there was a distance to that violence. Using my hands to purposively inflict physical harm on another human in close proximity (like in the MMA gym) was difficult for me. Admitting all of this is not easy. It has the stench of weakness. And, there’s a part of me that will not forgive the other part for not taking the beating at that party. Indeed, I can feel the disappointment of some of the men (and some of the women) in my family. You see, my people raised me to be a warrior. And, I want to be a warrior. But, here’s the thing, I’m a gardener.  


If you enjoyed this blog, you may enjoy these other blog post on manliness.

Thanks. – shawn


Photo by Dim 7 on Unsplash